Why This Matters

  • PREPARE FOR MULTIPLE CREATIVE CAREER PATHS

    A degree in photography can prepare you for work in various types of photography, including portrait, commercial, fashion, fine art, and documentary photography. Other opportunities include photo editor, instructor, or art director.

  • DEMAND FOR FREELANCE PHOTOGRAPHERS UP 10%

    Currently 64% of professional photographers are self-employed, and job prospects remain brightest for freelance photographers. Benefits of freelancing include the ability to set your own work hours and pay rates.

  • EARN $52-$55K PER YEAR WITH A PHOTO DEGREE

    Photographers with a bachelor’s or master’s degree earn anywhere between $52,000 and $55,000 per year on average, according to Payscale.com. This exceeds the median annual wage for all occupations, which is $38,640.

Our Research

For our list of the best photography degrees, we reviewed Bachelor of Arts (BA), Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA), Master of Arts (MA), and Master of Fine Arts (MFA) programs. The type of degree you seek will depend on your current education level, and whether you want a broader or more focused approach to photography education.

Because of the hands-on nature of photography, the majority of programs are offered on-campus, although some online programs are available. We reviewed both types, so you can choose the one that best fits your needs.

All of the programs on our list are offered by regionally accredited schools. Additionally, many have programmatic accreditation through the National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD).

Each program was evaluated for flexibility, cost, course strength, faculty, and reputation. We gave each program an Intelligent Score on a scale of 0 to 100. Our top picks for the best photography degree are flexible, cost-effective, and respected.(For a more extensive explanation, check out Our Ranking Methodology.)

  • 64 hours to write this article
  • 78 universities and colleges we assessed
  • 402 education programs we compared

The Top 24 Photography Degrees

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What You Should Know About This Degree

Photographers must possess a range of skills, including creativity, artistic ability, attention to detail, and computer, business, and interpersonal skills. While degree programs can teach students the technical skills and artistic principles behind photography, this field is best suited for those with an innate sense of creativity and visual expression.

Because photography equipment is readily accessible, and most photography skills can be learned through independent study and trial-and-error, there is debate about whether a degree is necessary to have a career in photography. Benefits of earning a photography degree include learning from trained professionals, access to equipment and facilities, and networking opportunities. However, students should carefully consider their career goals, and if taking two or four years to earn a degree is the right path for them.

Many photographers work as freelancers, or manage their own photography studios. Therefore, having some coursework in business, management, and entrepreneurship can be beneficial. Some programs may include these courses in the curriculum, or you may be able to gain this knowledge through elective classes. Photographers also have an advantage when they keep up with trends in the photography industry, like the current popularity of drone photography for weddings, special events, advertising, and more.

What’s Next?

Here are some questions to ask when researching Photography programs:

  • Is there a portfolio required for admission? Typically in BFA and MFA programs, students must demonstrate their artistic abilities as part of the admissions process. This is usually done by submitting a portfolio of work that includes photography, as well as other types of artwork. Talk to the admissions staff or program representatives to find out what is required for the portfolio, so you can make the necessary preparations to submit it with your application.
  • What equipment and facilities do students have access to in the program? Photography requires special equipment, including cameras, lighting, and software, as well as facilities like darkrooms, studios, and labs. Visit the school or talk to a representative about what equipment students are expected to purchase, and what the program provides, and what type of photography facilities students can access.

During the research stage, learn about programs’ application requirements and deadlines. This will help keep you organized and on track when it comes to applying in a timely manner. You should also researching funding resources, including federal financial aid, scholarships, assistantships, and tuition assistance benefits if you are currently employed.